BackgroundInterview Date:February 2019
Gender Identity: Female
Race/Ethnicity: East Asian
Sexual Orientation: Heterosexual
Graduation Year: 2021
High School Experience: Public school in the Bay Area, CA with a graduating class of about 580 students. There was a culture of going to college.
First-Generation College Student: No
Minor: Health Studies
Extracurricular Activities: I’m an intern in the Student Life Office. I’m a coordinator for MAST, which is a mentoring and teaching program at Haverford where we teach middle school students science. I’m [have a leadership role] in the Korean Culture Association. I’m part of Women in STEM and the Pre-Health Society. I also work as part of the Customs program, which is sort of like being a resident’s assistant.
Did any of your extracurricular activities have a particularly big impact on your experience?
Being a Customs person and being involved with first-year residential life has shaped my outlook of Haverford. Because my high school was predominantly Asian, we never really discussed the issues of racism, sexism, and all of that. But, coming to Haverford, the campus does get involved in those issues. By being in the organizations I am in, it gives me better insight into what experiences are like and what issues students may have with other students or the institution.
Can you describe the weekly coursework for your major?
It’s a lot of reading. It’s not as much writing as one might expect, but that’s because the professors I’ve had don’t assign as heavy workloads as other professors. I read around 150-pages a week for my three Religion classes this semester, but I don’t necessarily have to write anything. I’ll have around one paper every three weeks or so.
Is there anything you feel the Religion department has done especially well or poorly?
What it does well is that the classes are on the smaller side, which allows for discussion of the texts that we read and really close analysis. I like that we talk about a range of issues that can be cultural or about society as a whole, and a lot of our conversations are always very insightful about the text itself and also how it might relate to student experiences. They make connections between what we’re reading and real life.
One thing I think the department can improve on, and is something the department is working on, is a lot of the courses focus on Western religion and a lot of the faculty are White. I’m really interested in the intersection between Koreans and Korean Christianity, and the courses offered are either about Christianity or East Asian religions like Buddhism. There’s not much intersection material available. Also, a lot of the students interested in religion are not students of color. But, the department is really supportive and there are other resources for students of color.
How would you describe the learning environment? Do you think it’s particularly competitive or collaborative?
I think it’s very collaborative, which is one of the reasons why I wanted to come to Haverford. Because of the honor code, we are not as grade-focused or achievement-focused. People are more interested in understanding the material, working together to understand it, and helping peers understand your experiences and how that might relate to what we’re reading.
How accessible are your professors?
All of my humanities professors have been really accessible. They’re free most of the time, so I can email them or schedule an appointment with them very quickly. That’s one of the biggest perks of going to a small, liberal arts college.
Do you think people are open to multiple schools of thought in the classroom?
Generally, yes. That’s one of the discussion points that’s happening on our campus right now. We are very liberal on this campus, so if you have a more conservative ideology, you may see something differently. I feel like you can still generally speak about your thoughts, but, to some degree, you have to be careful about what you say because here we are very conscious of how our words might affect other people. I think that’s a really good thing, though some people might find it stifling. In class discussions where we may talk about controversial issues, we first talk about setting guidelines where we assume good intentions from whoever is speaking and not to attack the person who says a particular idea that might be seen as offensive. We agree to talk about the idea and not the person to try to combat the potential of people not wanting to express contrasting opinions. I don’t really know if it’s effective, but I do think it helps.
Why did you pick your major? Are you happy with your choice?
I’ve always been interested in theology. I have a Christian background and think that there are a lot of Christian influences in the media, literature, and our laws and policies, so I wanted to explore that more. I’ve been very satisfied with the courses I’ve taken and I’m really happy with my decision to stick with it. I was first considering Anthropology but my first semester I took Intro to Christianity and that sold me because the class material was amazing and the professor was very enthusiastic.
On and Around Campus
Where have you lived on campus?
Freshman & Sophomore: Gummere Hall in a single for both years. Haverford has a lot of single rooms.
How was transitioning from the Bay Area, CA to Haverford, PA in terms of location?
The change of weather was tough because I get cold super easily. When it gets dark and snowy, it can be gloomy. The food options have been difficult as well because in the Bay Area I really like the ethnic food options, especially the East Asian food, but Haverford, both the town and college, don’t provide those options. In terms of the environment, I do like the environment at Haverford because it’s a little less tense and more slow-paced.
Can you describe the level of safety you’ve experienced on and around campus?
I feel very safe on my campus. I really like how our college’s relationship with campus security and how the campus security is truly here for us. We have a wet campus, so you don’t have to completely sneak around alcohol which is beneficial because students drink more openly and in safer environments. I never feel like I’m in danger when I walk on campus late at night.
Pros and cons of being located in Haverford, PA:
1) We have train stations nearby, so we have easy access to Philadelphia.
2) We have milder weather than New York or Boston. We get snow but it’s not too bad.
3) There are a lot of other colleges around Haverford, so if you have friends there and want to go to their parties or other events, you can. [Haverford is part of the Quaker Consortium with Bryn Mawr, Swarthmore, and the University of Pennsylvania.]
1) Because the student population is small, if you need to Uber to campus you’re probably not going to find somebody to split your fare with.
2) Because I’m from California, I think the weather can be gloomy and it stays cold for a long time. If you’re from the East Coast, you’re used to.
What kind of nightlife or weekend activities do you like to participate in?
I like hanging out with my friends in the dorms. Sometimes I go to Philly to get food and spend the night out, but not very often. Most nights, I’m on campus watching a movie, playing board games or card games, and we have laser tag here where we convert the Nerd House basement into an arena. We do have parties, I just don’t prefer them.
What nights of the week do those things tend to happen?
Friday and Saturday night. I usually go to events like every other week, and then the other times I just hang out with friends.
How happy have you been with the weekend options at Haverford? Is there anything you would change if you could?
I don’t think I’d change anything. Even if we had more options, we are a pretty academic school so a lot of times people are just studying.
How did you meet your closest friends?
I met one of my closest friends through a science lab. We were lab partners and started talking because we spent three hours a week together in addition to class. I met another friend through a pre-college program that Haverford offers and started hanging out with her on her hall a lot, and that’s how I met a lot of my other friends.
How would you describe the overall social scene at Haverford?
We don’t have any fraternities, so it’s not exclusive in that context. Generally, there isn’t a huge divide between social circles, but if you look closely we do have them. Like, non-athletes and athletes is one of the bigger divisions we have and international students tend to hang out with each other. But, I do think our social scene is more relaxed and cohesive than what I’ve seen in other places.
To what extent do people of different races and sexual orientations mix socially?
Different sexual orientations mix really well at our college and we do have spaces for them if they need that. With other races, we have strong affinity groups present, so if you’re from one race it’s easy to connect and find people of the same race as you. But, at the same time, it’s pretty fluid and there is intermingling between races, not a lot of intermingling, but enough. [About 43% of Haverford’s student body are people of color.]
How would you describe the East Asian community? How strong is it?
I feel like there are two different East Asian communities. There’s a really strong community of Chinese international students who tend to keep to themselves, and then there are the other Asian-American students. In the past couple of years, we’ve been really growing our presence and seeing more solidarity. We don’t have as strong of a foundation as the Black Student League or the Latin American Student Alliance because we have just started building our presence in the last few years. We’re getting stronger, but I wouldn’t say we’re strong.
How do you like the size of Haverford in terms of undergraduate enrollment? How does it influence your social experience? [Haverford has about 1,350 students.]
I really like size. That’s one of the reasons I wanted to come here, it’s one of the smallest student bodies out there. Some people might say they know everyone on campus, and I’d say I know a lot of people but I am still seeing new faces and hearing about new names. It’s small enough to feel like a small community in the sense that you aren’t lost in a sea of faces. I’ve really enjoyed that.
Has the alumni network helped you find internships or jobs?
No, that’s one of my complaints about Haverford. Our alumni can be great if you try to reach out to them and network with them through clubs. We also have an Externship Program, but I think it can be kind of limiting because you have to find your own housing and pay for it. Also, we’re a small school so we don’t have as large of a network as other colleges have. I don’t think the career center is great at maintaining strong alumni contacts, so we can’t really take advantage of that as undergrads.
What have you used the career office for? How helpful are they?
I tried to use them mostly to find internships and alumni who I can individually contact to find internships that aren’t official programs. I did that for both pre-med internships that are focused on science and research and humanities and policy-based internships, and I don’t think they’re that effective. If you talk to individual professors, they might help more. I found my internships on my own.
Have you learned any computer programs or languages that will be helpful to you professionally?
No, because I don’t have interest in that. One of the problems is our Computer Science program is very small so it’s hard to get into the classes unless you’re majoring in it.
Have you used financial aid? If so, how easy are they to work with?
I do receive financial aid. I haven’t visited the financial aid office, but I do think Haverford can have lacking financial aid, and that’s maybe because of our lack of endowment.
Advice for Prospective Freshmen
What is something you wish you knew about Haverford before entering as a freshman?
Haverford really advertises student engagement, student leadership, and student agency. Yes, we do have that. You can get involved in campus and start a club fairly easy. We have Plenary so we can make adjustments to our Honor Code and we have a say in our alcohol policy. But, you can’t come to the school expecting to make large, impactful changes because you have to work with administrators to do that. Students can be impactful on campus, but you have to jump through more hoops than you realize. There are faculty members who support us and want us to see us make changes, but it’s hard to enact real change.
What is something a prospective East Asian student may want to know that we haven’t touched on?
The East Asian department’s great, but if you’re interested in anything related to Korea, you’re probably not going to find it here. It’s mostly about Chinese and Japanese language and culture. You have to go to UPenn to find anything about Korea.
What is something a prospective student may miss on a visit that’s worth checking out?
You might want to check out other dorms instead of the dorms that are advertised on the tour.
Reasons to attend Haverford:
1) You will find a really supportive community for whatever identity you are.
2) Haverford students are really passionate about advocacy. If that’s something you’re interested in, you should come here.
3) The faculty are really great. They can accommodate you and really want you to be the best student you can be. They want to get to know you more than just as a student.
4) The friends that you make because they really do stand by you. You can have really interesting conversations with a lot of the people here.
Reasons to not attend Haverford:
1) If you want a large school, definitely don’t come here.
2) If you’re really interested in a pre-professional education, you might want to rethink coming here. The students at Haverford are more interested in advocacy and going to non-profits or becoming researchers, there aren’t a lot of people going to Wall Street or Boston Consulting Group. [About 21% of students go into business and finance, 19% go into education, 17% go into healthcare, and 13% go into science and technology.]